Democratic Governance Crucial for Achieving Peace in Region, Says Delegate
Volatile security conditions, climbing humanitarian needs, electoral transparency and intercommunal tensions driven by climate change are just some of the complex issues facing countries across West Africa and the Sahel, the Secretary General’s Special Representative in the region told the Security Council today, as he outlined ways his office is collaborating with regional Governments to reverse precarious trends.
In first briefing since assuming his role on 26 April, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who is also the Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), said his inaugural action was to embark on a tour, meeting with Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) — and a range of national interlocutors, international partners and United Nations country teams — to survey the challenges. Throughout, stakeholders reaffirmed their commitment to working with UNOWAS in coordination with the African Union and others.
On the security front, he detailed significantly improved coordination among the ECOWAS action plan, the Regional Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience Strategy for Areas Affected by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin Region and the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel, adding that electoral challenges in the region stem from a deficit of political dialogue and a lack of consensus around the principles underpinning the polls.
More broadly, he said his office has worked with ECOWAS to improve the rule of law, promoting exchanges between justice ministers and bolstering both judicial cooperation and experience-sharing, in line with the ECOWAS Additional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. UNOWAS also joined several United Nations agencies to launch a regional working group on climate change, security, environment and development, aiming to link global efforts to national and regional policy development.
Against that backdrop, Chantal Ayemou, President of the civil society organization Réseau Ivoirien pour la Défense des Droits de l’Enfant et de la Femme, recommended a number of ways to improve the situation of women across West Africa. She called for a multisectoral approach to address women’s health, including through better access to services and a broad rethinking of how health systems are financed. Women should also be able to access legal services, especially in cases of domestic violence, and countries should adopt laws specifically aimed to improve women’s political participation.
In the ensuing debate, some delegates likewise made recommendations for addressing what the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2021/612) characterized as “early warning signs of a democratic retreat across parts of the region” which warrant further attention, with Ireland’s representative stressing that democratic governance is crucial for achieving peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel. The representative of the United States similarly called for a return to constitutional rule in Mali through democratic elections in 2022 and encouraged UNOWAS to develop a civilian-led joint project to address local conflicts.
Several delegates lauded the UNOWAS focus on regional collaboration. Niger’s representative, also speaking for Kenya, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Tunisia, welcomed the regional approach being applied to climate and security, and the progress being made in operationalizing the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger] joint force. Voicing regret that security conditions have worsened despite national, regional and international efforts to combat terrorism, he urged UNOWAS to harmonize relevant strategies and called for more funding of the ECOWAS action plan to eradicate terrorism.
Addressing security concerns, France’s representative, Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity to denounce recent massacres of civilians in Niger and Burkina Faso. “We must provide the countries with the support they need to combat terrorism,” he stressed.
Striking a moderate tone, India’s representative welcomed an increasingly vibrant and inclusive political environment in West Africa despite “a few aberrations” to this trend. He nonetheless noted that several Indian sailors have been victims of piracy and kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea, stressing that “there is an urgent need to increase surveillance to ensure maritime security in the area through increased international collaboration.”
Also speaking were representatives of the Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Mexico, Estonia, Norway and China.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 11:16 a.m.